LHHS cross country teams head to State

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The girls’ and boys’ varsity cross country teams celebrated their second-place finishes at the Regional Cross Country Meet on Oct. 23. Following their second-place Regional finishes, both cross country teams will compete at the State Meet on Saturday, Nov. 4, in Round Rock. (Laura Coleman Photo)

By LANCE CATCHINGS

The Liberty Hill cross country teams are hard at work this week, prepping for Saturday’s State Meet at Round Rock’s Old Settlers Park. Both the girls’ and boys’ varsity teams advanced to State with second-place finishes at the Regional competition on Oct. 23.

Senior Kaleb Lorance said the season has been a grind to this point for him, but is excited about his improvement and the upcoming opportunity the Panthers have as a team.

“My season started kind of slow,” Lorance said. “I was trying my best, but I just wasn’t very good in the beginning. We got farther into the season and I progressed, and our team progressed, as well. I got shin splits towards the Salado and Cedar Park meet, and that was brutal. Thankfully, I got past it before we got to District and Regionals. When those meets came up, I really pushed myself to get the team where we needed to be. As a senior, I tried to do what I could to motivate the team. At District, we came in first place, which was awesome, and from there we kept pushing ourselves. Regionals was not one of our best races, but I think we didn’t drink enough water. We pushed ourselves, and I was surprisingly only six seconds behind Cade Cole. Regionals could have been our last meet, and my thinking was if it was my last one, I wanted to make it worth it. I really pushed myself, and I was happy with the result.”

Lorance is proud of his teammates and the accomplishments they have achieved thus far, and he believes they will be ready for the challenge of an afternoon start in possibly inclement weather.

“I’ve only been in cross country for two years, but I love this team,” he said. “We are like family. We run well together and we joke around, but when the cross country meets come, we put our game face on and go. Being a senior is a big motivator, because this is my last year with this team. We have to practice seriously. We are one of the top 16 teams in the state, and it could be anybody’s race. According to the weather forecast, the conditions may not be that favorable, so it could really be anybody’s race. I am really hoping that we can do it, and I’m going to help push my teammates.”

Before the team heads to the starting line for the State Championship, they’ll take to the team huddle. Lorance said that pre-race huddle is a special moment for all of them.

“We are definitely focused, because winning that State Title is the goal,” he said. “I really want to help push my teammates, and I want us all to succeed. Just running in the State Meet is a huge accomplishment, especially as a senior. To represent our school is an amazing feeling. At the Regional Meet, I got to break us out before the race. We get in our huddle and we do our chant, and it was really cool I got to be in the middle for that. We will wish each other good luck and line up. It’s been a great year with love all around.”

Sophomore girls’ varsity runner Madison Sears said that, although the team faced some adversity at the Regional Meet, a total team effort is what has helped propel them to this point.

“We experienced some different weather conditions at Regionals, because we were used to running in the mornings, so it was a little different running in the afternoon heat,” Sears said. “It was almost shocking to us that we could place second without a top runner. Going into State we are trying to get better and run close as a team so we can finish higher, overall. We saw Fairfield projected to be first at Regionals, and they ended up not advancing at all. Our coach always says it’s who is best on that day, and that’s what we’ll be thinking about at State.”

Running together and pushing one another is how the Lady Panthers advanced to State without a top-10 finisher, which has been the case for most of this season. At State, they’ll rely on a total team effort once again.

“Our coach has said from the beginning that we are one team and one family, and that definitely helps us all,” Sears said. “We have had a lot of people go back and forth, finish-wise. It’s been fun to see that competition between our team, and it pushes us. I’ve definitely seen growth from this team. Each one of us has had to step up and take the role of that lead runner at a different time, which makes us stronger.”

This week, in preparation for the State Meet, the girls are working on speed, as opposed to distance. During their preparation, Sears is taking every opportunity to soak it in, knowing it’s the final meet of their season.

“We are cutting back on distance and focusing more on speed,” she said. “We got second at Regionals, but we beat Llano the week before and Fairfield at Regionals, so there is no limit to what we can do. I am just thankful for the opportunity. We have seen a lot of teams end their seasons when they thought they would be moving on, so it makes you thankful to continue.”

Sears, who also ran in last year’s State Meet, is excited about the opportunity to represent Liberty Hill on such a big stage for the second year in a row.

“It feels good to represent Liberty Hill,” she said. “I love our team and the opportunity to run now and the years ahead. Our goal is always to get to State and to get to the podium. I really want to go out and (personal record) this meet, so that is my personal goal, along with running for placing for our team.”

The meet will be held in Round Rock at Old Settlers Park with the boys running at 3:15 p.m. and the Lady Panthers taking to the course at 2:45 p.m.

Lance@LHIndependent.com

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